I attended the annual Southern California Writers Conference this past weekend in Pasadena, and came home with a new perspective on my writing. I participated in 6 workshops lead by published writers, editors, writing coaches and agents, and listened to a panel discussion by literary agents based in Los Angeles and New York.
I came home with a head full of advice on adverbs (minimal use, if at all), tense-shifting, 1st person VS 3rd person, speaker voice, voice-shifting, metaphors, dialogue and more. One exceptionally bright writing coach spoke on how to extract our emotional issues out of our writing.....at least enough so that we can objectively (adverb alert!) judge the quality of our work. Here's one hint...if we think it's brilliant, but no one else (except our mothers or spouses) see the brilliance, perhaps it's our own emotional issues coloring the words as we read them.
This sort of conference is neither a mountain-top motivating experience a la Christian retreats, nor a business-world networking impress-the-heck-out-of-everyone extravanganza. It was instructional and informative, and was centered around hanging out with other writers. Writers work in solitary, and tend to be mediocre verbal communicators, so it's pleasantly reassuring to pal around with 200 others cut from the same cloth.
Ron and Andrea came with me. We made it a getaway weekend, although we were only 35 miles from home. I grew up in San Marino, a small nearby town, so I know the quiet beauty of Pasadena. We enjoyed a good dinner, toured the Rose Bowl and Frank Lloyd Wright's Gamble House, visited the new Old Town area, and cruised Colorado. We also made a point to sightsee Fuller Theological Seminary, the Pasadena Playhouse and the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, home of the Pasadena Philharmonic Symphony.
And Andrea got treated (subjected?) to a nostalgic tour of my growing-up stomping grounds. The 2 houses; my church; my elementary, middle and high schools. She still doesn't believe I was "forced" (her word) to take social etiquette/ballroom dancing cotillion classes at the Civic Auditorium while in middle school. (The girls wore white gloves, fancy dresses and black patten shoes. The boys wore suits and ties. No sports jackets, please. This is Pasadena.)
We had fun. It was great to forget responsibiitlies, chores and politics. Ron grew up in San Francisco, and he remarked how much he misses living in a city with culture...art museums, symphony orchestras, theater, important architecture, beautiful gardens, plenty of good restaurants. I do, too.
But I think we missed something.....did the Angels or Dodgers play this weekend? :)